Want more energy?

This “breath spell” can transform your health!

What if our main energy source is right under our noses- but we aren’t paying any attention to it? Breath is our main power source of energy if we learn to harness it the right way.

“What has to be taught first, is the breath.” -Confucius

In a 2023 Stanford study, scientists observed that a 5-min daily practice of breathing exercises over 1 month significantly improved the daily energy levels and gave a heap of other psychological and physiological benefits including improved mood, reduced anxiety, and reduced heart rate among 84 participants (Balban et al., 2023).

It turns out, the most important source of energy we receive is not through the food we eat but through the breaths we take. Even though the way we breathe strongly affects the chemical and physiological activities in our body, most of us do not know how to breathe in a way that best sustains our health and well-being. When we breathe poorly, we not only deny our bodies sufficient oxygen from the atmosphere, but we also deny ourselves chi/prana/pneuma, the vital life force of the universe.

Breathe to energise your cells

By thoroughly inhaling and exhaling, we can rejuvenate the power factories of our cells – our mitochondria, and produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the main energy source for our cells to function. In addition, our mitochondria also produce free radicals in the form of a highly reactive group of molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Mitochondrial dysfunction results in the overproduction of ROS, leading to extensive damage to cellular structures and hence impairing their functions, often referred to as “oxidative stress” (Sies & Jones, 2020). On the other hand, a low level of ROS production is protective and serves as a trigger for adaptive responses that benefit our health (read more about mitochondria in our previous article).

The good news is that we can induce this adaptive trigger with breathwork. During breathwork, we mainly manipulate oxygen levels in our body. One part of breathwork is hyperventilation, i.e. deep, rapid, and irregular breathing. During hyperventilation, we supply plenty of oxygen to our body creating a hyperoxic state, a stimulus that induces low levels of ROS, resulting in new mitochondria production (mitogenesis) as well as enhanced metabolic efficiency.

Hold your breath to increase your energy

In contrast to hyperventilation, during breath retention (when we hold our breath), we cut the supply of oxygen inducing “intermittent hypoxia” i.e. a state of not having enough oxygen for short periods of time.

Hypoxia is also a natural trigger of mitogenesis (new mitochondria production) and other important mitochondrial metabolic changes through the induction of two vital signaling pathways mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) and vascular endothelial factor (VEGF). These signaling proteins stimulate the production of red blood cells and the formation of blood vessels respectively  (Uzun et al., 2023). 

Breathwork simply allows us to engage our body’s survival mechanisms in a controlled environment, and push ourselves to better health. So when we hold our breath for a couple of minutes, our body cells sense this and react in a way that promotes them to be fit for future oxygen shortages. They simply adapt. And we are the controller who can force them to do this!

Activate your genes for more energy

Scientists have identified the upregulation of “Hypoxia-Inducible-Factor-1” (HIF-1) as the main driver of benefits provided by intermittent hypoxia to our body (Semenza 2000). In fact, three independent physician-scientists from the United States and Britain – William G. Kaelin Jr., Peter J. Ratcliffe, and Gregg L. Semenza – received the 2019 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.  

HIF-1 is rapidly stabilized and accumulated when the oxygen supply is low in our body, something we can stimulate by practicing breath retention. Once stabilized, they start a whole cascade of cell signaling in our body by switching on several other genes. One of these genes encodes erythropoietin (EPO) – a protein synthesized by the kidneys and the liver. Circulating EPO then binds its cognate receptor (EPOR) on bone marrow blood stem cells, triggering multiple signaling pathways that support the differentiation of stem cells into mature red blood cells.

Increased levels of red blood cells can then deliver higher levels of oxygen from the lungs to all body tissues. This is also why some endurance athletes illegally use EPO supplements for doping— it increases their supply of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Other HIF target genes encode glycolytic enzymes, angiogenic factors, and iron uptake proteins, representing a concerted hypoxia response to increase red blood cell productionmanufacture hemoglobinenhance tissue perfusion, and promote oxygen-independent metabolism through glycolysis leaving us energized and revitalized very quickly.  

“Breathwork can simply re-educate our cells and DNA for optimal health”

Intermittent hypoxic training & Intermittent fasting

Intermittent hypoxic training (IHT), combined with another mitochondria-rejuvenating intervention i.e intermittent fasting (IF), has already been in the clinical practice for its multiple health benefits and alleviation or cure of numerous chronic degenerative and mitochondria-related diseases (Prokopov et al., 2012). We highly recommend combining these two lifesaving hacks to maximise benefits.

How to start today?

Widely popularized by extreme athlete Wim Hof, also known as “The Iceman”, intermittent hypoxic training (IHT) has been used and studied by scientists for the last 50 years.

Here’s how you can start practicing today:

Step 1: Get comfortable and just breathe

  • Make yourself comfortable by sitting or lying down.
  • Then, just breathe naturally for a minute or two to settle into your body. 

Step 2: Take 30-40 deep breaths 

  • Inhale deeply through the mouth, making sure that your diaphragm is engaged. Notice how your belly expands and contracts with each breath.
  • Allow your lower belly to fill and rise first, and then your chest to rise as you fill your lungs. 
  • Let your abdomen expand fully and exhale unforced through the mouth. 
  • Fully inhale through the belly, then the chest, and then let go unforced. 
  • Repeat this 30 to 40 times in short, powerful bursts.

 Step 3: The hold-breath retention

  • After the last exhalation, inhale one final time, as deeply as you can. 
  • Let the air out and stop breathing (hold your breath). 
  • Whiles holding (breath retention) focus on relaxing your body and being still.
  • Hold until you feel the urge to breathe again. 

The transition between the controlled hyperventilation phase and the ‘chaotic’ breath retention phase is marked by the conscious decision to stop breathing and go from breathing as much as you can, to holding the breath with your lungs comfortably empty.

 Step 4: Recovery breath

  • When you feel the urge to breathe again, draw one big breath to fill your belly and lungs. 
  • Feel your belly and chest expanding. 
  • When you are at full capacity, hold your breath for 15 seconds, then let go. 

That completes round number one. It’s recommended to do it 3-4 times without intervals. 

A few tips

You can do this practice anytime you need a boost of energy. We recommend it right after waking and before sleeping. Practice daily 3-5 rounds in the morning and/or evening. 

Note that breathwork can affect motor control and, in rare cases, lead to loss of consciousness. Always sit or lie down before practicing the techniques. Never practice while piloting a vehicle, or in or near bodies of water.  Also, if you have any heart, lung, epileptic disease, or any other health condition, please consult your doctor or medical practitioner to ensure that a particular technique of breathwork is suitable for you.I would love to hear about your own experiences and the benefits of breathwork.

If you have questions please comment and hit the cheer button if you liked this article.

Until the next time, stay safe and take good care,

With warm regards,

Dr. Chanchal Chauhan

Bringing science-backed research and effective solutions to support your health!


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